Lyre, stringed musical instrument having a yoke, or two arms and a crossbar, projecting out from and level with the body. The strings run from a tailpiece on the bottom or front of the instrument to the crossbar. Most lyres are plucked, but a few are bowed.
Box lyres are instruments having a boxlike wooden body with a wooden soundboard; in some instances the arms are hollow extensions of the body, as in the ancient Greek kithara. Bowl lyres have a rounded body with a curved back—often of tortoiseshell—and a skin belly; the arms are invariably constructed separately, as in the Greek lyra.
Box lyres were widespread in the ancient Middle East. Giant lyres placed on the ground and played by seated musicians appear in Sumerian reliefs (3rd millennium BC); some exceeded 40 inches (100 cm) in height, although smaller lyres were also used. Typically ornamented with a carved bull on one side, the Sumerian lyres were played in upright position with the fingers of both hands. They were asymmetrical, having one longer arm.
The lyre of modern East African may reflect the spread of ancient Egyptian instruments. Box lyres only survives between the Nilo-Hamitic Sebei in Ethiopia and Uganda. The Ethiopian begenna is a stringed instrument that is commonly used for accompaniment. Like Sumerian lyres, it is adjusted by wooden wedges. The African bowl lyre ranges from masonquo and krar in Ethiopia to ndongoand odi in Uganda and similar instruments in the Congo.
In some cases, the sound is humming by moving the strings close to the skin or by placing a humming object on the skin beneath the strings. Observing the playing skills and tuning of African lyre can provide insight into the possible tuning and performance techniques of ancient Greek strings, especially since in many cases this observation corresponds to some evidence of image evidence and Greek technical terms.
Edit by Bonnie
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